License Plate Impoundment

In Minnesota, certain DWI offenses will trigger license plate impoundment.  If this happens, the violator is required to surrender to law enforcement the license plates for every single vehicle owned by him/her, registered in his/her name, or leased by him/her.  This includes vehicles he/she owns, leases or registers jointly with another person such as their husband or wife.

Your license plates will be impounded in the following circumstances:

  1. The current DWI or alcohol related license revocation is your second or more in the last ten years; 
  2. Your alcohol concentration was .20% or higher;
  3. You had a child under the age of 16 with you in the car when you were stopped; or
  4. You were not only drunk but were driving without a valid license after having been cancelled as inimical to public safety.

Whiskey Plates

If your license plates are impounded, you will be issued new license plates that have stark blue lettering on a plain silver / white background.  The license plate number will start with WX, WY, WV, XW or some similar combination of letters.  You must use these “whiskey plates” for at least a year, and you are not allowed to drive any vehicle that does not have whiskey plates on it. 

You Cannot be Stopped just for Having Whiskey Plates

Up until 2003, a law enforcement officer could stop a vehicle just because it had whiskey plates.  However, in 2003, the Minnesota Supreme Court said this law was not constitutional.  Ever since then, a law enforcement officer cannot stop a vehicle just because it has whiskey plates.  Rather, the officer must observe some other violation of the law that supports a stop.  However, because the vehicle has whiskey plates, law enforcement officers are much more likely to watch the vehicle more closely in hopes of seeing a violation of the law that gives them a reason to pull it over. 

Due to the wide range of consequences that apply when license plates are impounded, it is a very good idea to have an experienced criminal defense attorney when dealing with DWI charges that will result in plate impoundment.